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Chinese Super League

Not so much off with a bang, but new Chinese Super League season finally about to get under way

Newly promoted Guizhou Zhicheng entertain fallen former giant Liaoning Whowin in the 2017 domestic opener on Friday

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 2:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 March, 2017, 8:36am

Maybe the Chinese Super League should invest in a new fixture computer, with Friday’s season opener between newly promoted Guizhou Zhicheng and fallen former giant Liaoning Whowin hardly setting the pulses racing following a preseason of mega transfers and the high-prolfie arrivals of Oscar and Carlos Tevez.

But the 2017 season, which is set to run through until the start of November, gets under way at Guiyang Olympic Sports Centre as the home side seek to avoid an instant return to the second tier in their first season in the top flight, having finished second in the League One in 2016.

Guizhou, who have Hong Kong international Festus Baise in their ranks, are among the favourites to go down, having been unable to make any significant signings ahead of the new campaign, instead relying on loan players to bolster their squad.

“Say less and do more, we are down to earth and our biggest ambition is to stay in the Super League at the end of the season,” said Guizhou coach Li Bing.

Guizhou have signed Australia defender Ryan McGowan and former West Ham United, Hull City, Everton and Rangers striker Nikica Jelavic after the Croatian scored 15 goals in League One last season for Beijing Renhe and was linked with a return to Scotland.

“It was never easy for us since day one, but we fought all the way to the Super League,” said Guizhou president Wen Xiaoting.

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“We have no intention to brag, we just want to try our best to fight for every match in the league.”

Former Asian champion Liaoning have been more successful and active ahead of the new season with the signings of Australia international Robbie Kruse from Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen and compatriot James Holland, while Chinese striker Yang Xu could prove key up front having been amongst the goals for Shandong Luneng over the last two seasons particularly in the AFC Champions League.

The Chinese Football Association's (CFA) new rules regarding foreign players, which restricts clubs to being able to field just three during a match of the five in their overall squad, saw Liaoning release Australian duo Dario Vidosic and Michael Thwaite at the end of last season.

“After finishing the preseason tour in Australia, the players are in great form now. I hope that people can understand we have to be very discreet about our formation or tactics,we can’t afford to let the whole world know how we play. Our team have undergone so many changes that the new players need time to fit into the new system,” said coach Ma Lin, after Liaoning finished 11th in the 16-team league last season.

Hong Kong internationals Festus Baise and Jean Kilama help fire Tianjin and Guizhou into big-money Chinese Super League

“The new policy of the CFA has really hit us because we don’t have many potential players, and now we have a lot of problems dealing with it.

“We know Guizhou quite well, but I can’t say we know everything about them. Basically, this will be a tough match against them.”

Oscar’s Shanghai SIPG get their domestic season, having reeled off three straight wins in the AFC Champions League, underway on Saturday at home to Changchun Yatai, while Shandong entertain Tianjin Teda and 2016 League One champions Tianjin Quanjian and coach Fabio Cannavaro travel south to face Guanzghou R&F.

Unlike Guizhou, Tianjin seem to have a squad capable of retaining their top-flight status next season having signed Brazilian Alexandre Pato and Belgian Axel Witsel ahead of the new campaign.

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But the fixture computer has saved the best until last as on Sunday six-time defending Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande entertain Beijing Guoan, while Tevez’s Shanghai Shenhua welcome fellow big-spenders Jiangsu Suning.

Jiangsu, who beat Australia’s Adelaide United 2-1 in the AFC Champions League this week, did their spending in 2016 and brought in Brazilian duo Alex Teixeira and Ramires and finished second in 2016 seven points behind Guangzhou Evergrande.

Also on Sunday, Henan Jianye entertain Hebei CFFC and Chongqing Lifan face Yanbian Funde.